In­trigu­ing show­downs for hol­i­day tour­neys

Daily Freeman (Kingston, NY) - - SPORTS - By Aaron Beard

Get ready for a week full of po­ten­tial matchups of ranked teams in col­lege bas­ket­ball’s Thanks­giv­ing hol­i­day tour­na­ments.

The Maui In­vi­ta­tional opened Mon­day in Lahaina, Hawaii, with an eight-team field head­lined by No. 4 North Carolina, No. 13 Ore­gon and No. 16 Wis­con­sin. That tour­na­ment wraps up to­day, the day the Bat­tle 4 At­lantis Tour­na­ment be­gins in Par­adise Is­land, Ba­hamas, fea­tur­ing No. 10 Louisville, No. 20 Bay­lor and No. 24 Michi­gan State.

In ad­di­tion, there’s the NIT Sea­son Tip-Off at the Bar­clays Cen­ter in New York, which could fea­ture a Fri­day cham­pi­onship matchup be­tween No. 19 West Vir­ginia and No. 25 Florida State. And the Ad­voCare In­vi­ta­tional in Or­lando starts Thanks­giv­ing Day with a field that in-

cludes No. 11 Gon­zaga and No. 21 Iowa State.

If the brack­ets fall right, there could be plenty of matchups that boost NCAA Tour­na­ment re­sumes when it comes to seed­ing and earn­ing a close-to-home open­ing week­end in March.

“Ev­ery year, the teams that are in there, you have sev­eral teams that have chances to win a na­tional cham­pi­onship, go to a Fi­nal Four,” Bay­lor coach Scott Drew said of the Bat­tle 4 At­lantis, adding: “Af­ter this tour­na­ment, you walk away, win or lose, a bet­ter team be­cause of the com­pe­ti­tion you faced.”

That looks true for sev­eral of the week’s events.

KEN­TUCKY BACK ON TOP

Ken­tucky re­turned to the No. 1 spot in the AP Top 25 af­ter Duke’s loss to Kansas last week. The Wild­cats (4-0) host Cleve­land State to­day then UT Martin on Fri­day be­fore head­ing to the Ba­hamas for a Mon­day meet­ing with Ari­zona State.

Ken­tucky, led by its lat­est stel­lar re­cruit­ing class, has reached No. 1 in six of coach John Cali­pari’s eight sea­sons with the Wild­cats. The Wild­cats are 66-6 as the AP’s top-ranked team.

“We’re still learn­ing about each other,” Cali­pari said af­ter Sun­day’s home win against Duquesne .

TOP CON­FER­ENCES

The At­lantic Coast Con­fer­ence led the way with six teams in this week’s poll, in­clud­ing four in the

top 10 with No. 6 Duke and No. 7 Vir­ginia join­ing UNC and Louisville. In ad­di­tion to FSU, Syra­cuse checks in at No. 18.

The Blue Devils play their first game since fall­ing from their pre­sea­son perch of No. 1 against Wil­liam & Mary tonight.

The Big Ten and Big 12 each man­aged five teams, though only one each in the top 10: No. 3 In­di­ana and No. 5 Kansas, re­spec­tively.

The Big East has three teams in the top 12: reign­ing NCAA cham­pion Vil­lanova at No. 2, Xavier at No. 9 and Creighton at No. 12.

NEW­COM­ERS

Bay­lor’s up­set of Ore­gon last week pushed the 20th-ranked Bears into the rank­ings en­ter­ing the Bat­tle 4 At­lantis, where they open against VCU.

FSU and Michi­gan tied for the No. 25 slot as the other new­com­ers. Michi­gan vis­its South Carolina to­day, while the Semi­noles face Tem­ple to start the NIT Sea­son Tip-Off in Brook­lyn on Thurs­day.

WATCH LIST

Cincin­nati (24th) and Cal­i­for­nia (25th) fell out of the rank­ings but re­main in the top five in the “oth­ers re­ceiv­ing votes” cat­e­gory. Yet two oth­ers in that group have a chance to play their way into next week’s poll: Mi­ami and Wichita State.

The Hur­ri­canes open the Ad­vocare In­vi­ta­tional against Stan­ford on Thurs­day and could meet both Gon­zaga and Iowa State. Mean­while, Wichita State opens play at the Bat­tle 4 At­lantis against LSU with Louisville po­ten­tially loom­ing the next day.

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